Scythe Poetry

A student on one of my Learn to Scythe courses sent me this poem a few weeks ago. I was going to wait to post it in the spring but it seems a great antidote to today’s misty grey weather. There’s a lot in these few lines and the analogy to dancing is perfect.

Martyn’s new collection of poetry ‘Sanctuary‘, written while Poet in Residence at Carlisle Cathedral is now available.


His father had taught him the scythe’s angle:
Like dancing; same need for grace and rhythm.

It’s in the body; same need for poise and swing.
You feel it in your arms, same spring in your toes.’

Allowed to touch it now, like a girl’s hand. The same
initial shyness, as when the music started. As a child

he’d known its fear and sheeted potential for violence,
seen it carried with respect, crucially hung

with blade honed to a death’s edge, wrapped
in a sheath of newsprint bound with wispy twine.

He’d noticed shine where fists gripped stubby handles,
as if testing short horns before a cull or dipping.

Same combination of strength in wood and steel
as the sword behind glass, laid bare at the county museum.

Viking’, the label said, though the other story
was how they cut men like sheaves, then planted farms,

growing into their places artful with iron. Same
bending into blades as with his first permitted cut.

His father watched from a bench, enjoying the sun
patterning gravestones cut sharp with familiar names,

dates, and having handed on responsibilities,
hearing the blade breathe after daffodils were settled.

~ Martyn Halsall

About Steve Tomlin

I am a greenwood worker and scythe tutor. I carve spoons, bowls and other products from locally sourced greenwood. During the summer I teach scything around the UK.
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